When it was shown at the Esposizione Nazionale Artistica di Venezia in 1887, the critics acclaimed this painting for its intense realism and dramatic impact. The episode of the battle of San Martino fought on 24 June 1859 for the cause of Italian independence is part of the patriotic and historical repertoire inspired by the Risorgimento, which is typical of De Albertis’s oeuvre and partially indebted to his teacher Gerolamo Induno. The Piedmont army’s frontal attack on the Austrians on the San Martino heights marked the end of a bloody battle that crucially determined the outcome of the war. De Albertis reprises the scene in such a way that the viewer finds himself behind the front line, in the midst of the artillery, while the actual battle is hidden from the protagonists’ view by a thick horizontal cloud of dust taking up the centre of the composition. Every moment of the action is depicted with stark realism almost in the style of reportage, as though painted from life, in order to involve the viewer emotionally. The tragic note introduced by the fallen soldier in the foreground and the others struggling to drag the artillery play down the heroic aspect, characteristic of so many of De Albertis’s military scenes, including the Battle of Pastrengo (Trieste, Museo Revoltella), one of the versions of the famous Charge of the Carabinieri at Pastrengo. From 1860 on, history painting in the grand style inspired by Classicism and Romanticism began to be replaced by themes taken from Italian history in the making. After the unification of Italy, the art scene was distinguished by a large number of military subjects that were given various interpretations: from the works of Gerolamo and Domenico Induno, such as The Battle of the River Tchernaya and The Fall of Palestro, 30 May 1895 in the Collection, to those by De Albertis’s great rival Giovanni Fattori, who painted the military episode at San Martino in a sharp clearly defined style, unlike the freer more elaborate work under examination here, right up to Michele Cammarano’s reportage style Battle of San Martino executed in 1883 (Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna).


  • Title: The 3rd Division Artillery at San Martino
  • Creator: Sebastiano De Albertis
  • Date: 1887/1887
  • Signature: De Albertis S.
  • Physical Dimensions: w353 x h166 cm (Without frame)
  • Exhibition History: This painting was exhibited at the Esposizione Nazionale Artistica di Venezia in 1887 (no.82), This painting was exhibited again in 1888 at the Esposizione Nazionale di Belle Arti in Bologna (p. 43)
  • Exhibition: Gallerie d'Italia, Piazza Scala, 6, Milano
  • Provenance: Cariplo Foundation, 1972
  • Type: Painting, oil on canvas
  • Rights: http://www.artgate-cariplo.it/en/disclaimer.html
  • External Link: www.artgate-cariplo.it

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